Centipede Grass Runners

Centipede grass runners spread above the ground and are referred to as stolons. The stolons are short, dense, leafy stems that spread rapidly. Planting the stolons is an effective vegetative method of establishing a lawn. Planting centipede grass from the runners is preferable because it is cost-effective. Also, many hybrid varieties are not available as seeds.

When properly harvested, transplanted, and maintained, Centipede grass runners can be used to establish a lawn or fill bare spots. This planting method is also known as sprigging. The stolons are dug from one part of the lawn and planted in another. Proper soil preparation, transplanting techniques, and maintenance are vital in successfully sprigging Centipede grass runners.  

We’ll show you how to get your lawn started with Centipede grass runners.

Does centipede grass have runners?

Centipede grass spreads by runners from which new grass blades sprout and roots develop. The stolons root at the node and branch to spread. This behavior is referred to as creeping.

Centipede grass only develops above-ground stolons as opposed to rhizomes. Therefore, Centipede turf grass grows slower than other warm-season grasses. The slow growth habit makes it easy to trim the turfgrass. Trimming limits the grass spreading in the patio, the garden, and the sidewalks.

There are several advantages to using centipede grass runners to establish a lawn. 

  • Planting runners instead of sodding and plugging is the most cost-effective way of planting centipede grass or filling bare patches.
  • Birds don’t eat runners. 
  • The runners control soil erosion.

How to plant centipede grass runners

Centipede grass stolons require more pre-planting preparation than planting sods. Runners can be adversely affected and easily dry if you neglect proper care. 

Planting centipede grass runners is sometimes referred to as sprigging or stolonizing. The runners are cut and covered with soil, after which they will sprout and spread. The stolons should be shallowly covered with soil to encourage rooting. Exposing the leaf blades to the full sun makes the leaves photosynthesize food for whole plant nourishment.

Plant new runners at the beginning of a new growing season, preferably spring or early summer. Earlier planting exposes the new runners to weeds while planting late in summer requires watering since it’s hot and dry.  Planting during a heavy winter can cause winter injury. Also, the high summer heat is not conducive to stolon growth.

Here are the steps to follow when planting Centipede grass sprigs.

1. Soil preparation 

Before planting, ensure the planting site is adequately prepared. Destroy any existing vegetation and remove the debris from your planting area. Perform a soil test to know the soil pH. Apply organic matter to the topsoil to improve the soil. 

Ensure you loosen compacted soil during preparation. Deep cultivation or tiling about 6 inches deep is important for aeration. Aerated soils allow better water drainage and fertilizer absorption. 

Avoid firming the soil with a roller before planting sprigs like other planting methods. Leave the top 2-3 inches of the soil loose so that the runners can easily be pushed into the soil. 

Obtain a soil sample to help you get a soil recommendation. The soil sample should be tested to determine soil pH. It also determines whether the level of nutrients such as Potassium, Magnesium, and Phosphorus is optimal for centipede grass growth.

2. Fertilize the lawns. 

You should apply the fertilizer and lime — or sulfur — recommended by the soil test results. If the soil is alkaline, use 20 pounds of sulfur per 1000 square feet. Apply 1-2 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet before planting. 

Work these fertilizers into the top 4-6 inches of the soil for the best results. 

3. Choose and plant the healthy runners. 

Use high-quality runners that are free of weeds, diseases, and pests. Choose the runners with at least two joints or nodes to plant. If you are buying the sprigs from a local garden store, plant the runners at 5-10 bushels per 1000 square feet.

Use garden scissors or garden shears to cut them from the sod. Choose sprigs that are not less than 3 inches and not more than 6 inches. There are several methods to plant sprigs.

  • Furrow planting: Furrow planting involves planting the sprigs in the spacing of about 4-6 inches in rows 8-12 inches apart. Plant the stolons 1-2 inches deep and leave about 25% exposed to full sunlight.
  • Broadcasting Sprigging/ stolonizing: Runners can also be broadcast into moist soil then pressed in. A hydromulcher is sometimes used for this process, where you broadcast the stolons with mulch.

Cover the runners with 1-1.5 inches of soil and firm the soil around the crown of the newly planted sprigs to ensure that they have good contact with the soil. Cover the runners manually or with a lawn roller. 

4. Water 

Regardless of the method of sprigging, water the sprigs immediately and continue watering frequently. Water newly planted runners with 2-3 brief spritz of water daily for two weeks until the stolon is well-rooted.

Afterward, irrigate with ¼ to ½ an inch of water once a day. Ensure the soil is moist until the grass germinates. Overwatering the grass puts them at risk of weeds and a weak plant. 

5. Weeds Control

Sprigging or planting runners will leave a lot of open spaces due to the slow-growth nature of centipede grass. The open areas are susceptible to invasion by weeds such as crabgrass.

Follow weed control measures to reduce weed encroachment. Make sure to follow the herbicides labels’ instructions for effective weed control.

Mulch with grass or hay to reduce or prevent soil erosion caused by rain. You should also ensure there is reduced traffic on newly planted grass.

Once the grass is established, follow the correct maintenance procedure for centipede grass. Mow once it reaches about 1.5 inches, water deeply, and fertilize.

Centipede grass stolons do not spread as vigorously as turfgrasses with both stolons and rhizomes. Such grasses, including Zoysia grass and Bermuda grass, have stolons and rhizomes that enable them to spread faster due to firm root establishment. 

Note: The grass may not sprout right away. Centipede is a slow-growing grass and can take between 10-28 days to germinate.

How to transplant centipede grass runners

Centipede grass decline, drought, or wear and tear can cause bare spots in your lawn. Transplanting your turfgrass is an easy way to revive and fill the bare patches. 

Transplanting centipede grass runners involves removing the vegetative stems from one part of the lawn and planting in another. The runners should be mature and free from soil to prevent soil layering. 

Transplanting involves the following steps. 

1. Preparing the site

Rake the planting area to loosen the soil and ensure the surface is free from rocks, debris, and other materials.

2. Obtaining the runners

Using a shovel, dig up healthy runners from the existing lawn. Use runners that are 3-6 inches in size. 

3. Planting the runners

Plant the cuttings on the soil immediately after harvesting. Use a lawn roller to firm the grass to the ground. Water immediately after planting and keep watering for the next two weeks.

Establishing a lawn from transplanting centipede grass runners may be harder compared to seeding, sodding, or plugging.

Stolons are highly perishable and should be planted within 24 hours after harvest. It makes harvesting and transplanting Centipede grass runners labor-intensive and time-consuming, especially for large areas. 

References

1. Clemson Cooperative Extension: Lawn Establishment

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